Monday, December 24, 2012

Burt on Milosz in translation

Rather than ask what makes Miłosz international, we can ask how to read, how to appreciate, the work in English now. We should credit Miłosz's translators and co-translators, most frequently though not only Robert Hass, whose ear and whose patience have much to do with the fact that Miłosz in English has—as most poets in translation cannot have—a recognizable, consistent, idiomatically plausible style. We say “that sounds like Miłosz” on the basis of cadence and tone, not only of meaning, as we cannot say, to a poem in present-day English, “that sounds like Akhmatova,” or “like Baudelaire.” (We can say “that sounds like Celan,” but there we are talking about a deliberately unidiomatic English derived from a deliberately unidiomatic original; and “that sounds like Brodsky in English” may not be a compliment.) Certain qualities of Miłosz’s verse—and of his poetic prose, as in Road-side Dog, too—seem to create a cadence, as well as a tone, that remains audible across a linguistic boundary.
-- from "Czesław Miłosz: Wisdom and Doubt" by Stephen Burt, in Literary Imagination Volume 14, Issue 3, pp. 261-276.

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